(Host) While world leaders in Copenhagen have been grappling with global
issues of sustainability – a high school students in Rutland have been doing their part to make this holiday season more "green."
They’re offering shoppers a way to wrap gifts with more eco-friendly materials.
VPR’s Nina Keck has more.
(Keck) According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate an extra one million tons of household waste between Thanksgiving and New Years. Seventeen-year-old Whitney Pratt is a member of Rutland High School’s environmentally conscious and active club. She says it’s disturbing how much waste is created.
(Pratt) "I’m sure you know that over Christmas people throw out a lot more than they usually do because of wrapping paper, ribbon."
(Keck) And plastic shopping bags. Altogether the holidays create a whopping 25 percent increase in garbage. Pratt and several of her classmates decided to do something about that.
(Shindler) "I’m Megan Schindler and I’m a senior at Rutland high school and we are making bags. We’re sewing them out of old scraps of fabric that otherwise wouldn’t be used. For people to use instead of plastic bags and just to use for whatever they want to reuse them for because we like reusing stuff."
(Keck) Besides making reusable cloth bags, the girls have been decorating presents as part of an eco friendly gift wrapping service in downtown Rutland.
(sound of wrapping) "How would you like it wrapped?"
"Oh my goodness you’re going to make me choose? I want it really colorful."
(Keck) The Downtown Rutland Partnership has operated a gift wrapping depot for years during the holidays. But this year students like Schindler and members of Sustainable Rutland, an organization that promotes conservation and sustainability, suggested they offer a greener alternative to traditional wrapping paper.
(Tashie) "We wanted to make sure that people could decorate, or have their gifts decorated very festively using all recyclable materials."
(Keck) Carol Tashie, co-chair of Sustainable Rutland, says they’re using old maps, colorful newspaper comics, bits of fabric and all sorts of odds and ends.
(Tashie) "I think the one we’re most excited about is the Rutland Herald comes in red plastic bags. So anyone who gets the Herald delivered gets them in these red plastic bags that you don’t really know what to do with. So, we’ve been collecting them and turning them into bows and ribbons and they look absolutely beautiful on those gifts. So there’s something that would normally end up in the landfill that’s now being used to decorate your holiday gifts."
(Keck) Stephanie Larson recently moved to Rutland from Baltimore. A science teacher, she’s one of several volunteer gift wrappers.
(Larson) "Well I love stuff like this. I love how easily accessible it is. And I think being sustainable doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not fun or that you have to make a sacrifice in any way."
(Keck) Larson points to several whimsically wrapped presents – one is decorated with pinecones, another has buttons and bits of burlap. One even has half a cork nestled in its bow.
(Larson) "Yeah, it looks great. It’s an old wine cork, with bits of meta. It’s just like stuff people have laying around the house. … It’s like if you scooped your hand in a drawer in your living room. You can make something cute and interesting with it."
(Keck) Marisa Kiefaber, a senior at Rutland High School, says all the attention on the environmental summit in Copenhagen is great. But she says thinking about the problems the world faces can be overwhelming.
(Kiefaber) "You can’t really do a lot individually but if everyone does a little bit – something like this – wrapping your Christmas presents in newspaper or making bags and using them instead of plastic. Everyone can help out a little bit and you’re not in Copenhagen, but you can help out in Rutland."
(Keck) Rutland’s eco-friendly wrapping depot will be open through Christmas Eve – every day but Sunday.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.